Not Singing the Zone 3 Blues

clip_image002Zone 3, on Delta flights is the last to board but make no mistake; it’s nowhere near the third group of people boarding the plane. People boarding ahead of Zone 3 include people in wheel chairs, people with babies, people who need other assistance and people who paid way more than me. People with status described by gemstone or metallic skins, board next; diamond, platinum, gold and lowly silver seem to board together, but all board ahead of those with simple Zone 1 status. If Zone 1 had a skin, I guess it would be bronze.

As I started typing that, my iPad suggested ‘Bronx’ – that might be fun, skin the zones like NY boroughs. I guess Manhattan would be first, but I’m not sure about Queens v Brooklyn or Bronx v Staten Island. I lived in Queens in the late 70’s and I would have rated it 2nd but even then I couldn’t say much about 3-5. Sorry for the spell-check-driven distraction but the tag line of this blog does include “random thoughts” so…

I’m not sure what’s up with Zone 2. The last three flights I’ve been on, when I was in Zone 3 didn’t have anybody board in Zone 2. Maybe it’s like the school systems that give grades A, B, C, D and F. Maybe they want to send the message that “you are in Zone 3!

If we were skinning Zone 3, I think we would be working with iron or steel. Copper, aluminum and stainless steel all seem like Zone 2 metals but I do think Zone 3 is better than tin or lead.

If you’re uncomfortable in iron-priority Zone 3, you can “buy yourself some Zone 1 status” for a few bucks. Not too few, but not too many so it might be worth it if you have a reason to board ahead of us folks in steerage. The common reason is to take a shot at shoving an oversized carry-on bag into an overhead bin within sight of your seat. A bin in front of your seat works well; a bin behind you fails unless you are an 8-yr old girl flying alone. By the time men are cute enough to get volunteer help on a plane they are able to board with the group needing assistance.

I wonder how the airlines plan to deal with us aging baby-boomers when we all need help. Maybe they will combine metallic status with infirmity. “…now boarding passengers in platinum wheel chairs.” Of course the same will apply to malls, grocery stores and Wal-Mart; they will all need multiple rows of handicapped parking. Maybe the airlines are saving Zone 2 for aging boomers.

I noticed a few inconsistencies on recent Delta flights. First, sometimes they boarded Zone 1 passengers through the pretty red and blue priority lane normally reserved for the jewelry metals but sometimes Zone 1 boarded though the iron and tin-plate General Boarding lane. Also, sometimes I could buy just priority boarding but sometimes I had to step up to Economy Comfort (3 extra inches of leg room to go with Zone 1 status). Still more perplexing, sometimes Economy Comfort seats were in the front of the coach section, but sometimes they were the exit-rows over the wing. Of course when you buy an exit-row seat, you join the team. In the event of an emergency, you have to open the door, hand out peanuts and say “buh-bye, have a nice day.”

Air travel begins to homogenize upon landing, everyone else exits in row order. As rude as today’s travelers can be (or be driven by the frustration of air travel), exiting a plane is a surprisingly civil process. People exit by row, and usually wait for the entire row ahead to step into the aisle before moving up. I don’t remember the last time I saw the arrogant pushy I’m-in-a-hurry guy try to shove up a few rows.

The great equalizer of course is baggage claim – no status there. First Class bags get heaped on the pile simply based on where they were in the previous pile.

My daughter and I tried to figure out whether arriving early or late helped your odds in baggage claim. Let’s see:

The first bag in the plane is the last out, which could mean top of baggage train and first on the carrousel. Then again, it could mean top of the caboose on that train…

We gave up. There were too many random factors like plane changes and the size and shape of other bags to contend with.

Of course you can buy your way out of baggage claim now too. For an extra2 fee (fee on top of the fee to check your bag) you can just leave the airport and have your bag delivered to your home. Just keep in mind that you’re asking an airline that often can’t get your bag to the correct airport to find your 3rd floor apartment in Queens. I’m guessing that there are some limitations on the distance they will schlep your bags. Queens and Brooklyn are ok but if you live on Staten Island, take your bag with you when you go.

These days, I am usually happy in Zone 3. I check my luggage and put my laptop under the seat. I like to sit on the aisle and boarding later means that my seat mates are likely to be all nice and buckled in – having to get up during boarding and let the window-seat passenger in can be a challenge when the aisle is crowded. I have purchased the extra legroom option on a couple flights that were longer than 3 hours; I got to board with Zone 1 but not through the Priority lane.

I am not normally a fan of fee-based income schemes, but these new offerings actually seem fair. If you want more legroom, you can buy it. If you want to zip away upon landing, you can pay them to bring you your bag. On some flights, you can buy the food they serve in First Class, and on all flights, you can buy actual good food in the terminal and bring it on with you – so far, there’s no fee for removing non-indigenous trash. You can even buy status. Delta is now selling frequent flier points so you can board early through the pretty lane without actually having to fly very often – such a deal!

12 thoughts on “Not Singing the Zone 3 Blues

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  1. Picture – The Delta boarding lanes. I like the fact that the people boarding through the Priority lane get to step on a pretty little mat before proceeding. I guess that’s so they can wipe the airport dust off their feet.


  2. I’m your pesky window seat mate – I like to see what’s going on out there. One time I ran across half the airport to transfer planes so held up my new flight, had a baby with me and had the window seat so bothered the other 2 people in that row. Such nice looks everyone gave me as I boarded…


      1. I’m sure that you would be :).  Of course too, we should sometimes think what is going on for that other person before we assume that they are not pleasant.  Stress makes the niceties more important – but harder to do.



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